By: The Review | Towanda Daily Review | October 2, 2016
ATHENS — Saturday's homecoming game started out very well for Athens, which seemed to score with ease on its second possession.
From there, though, Wilkes-Barre G.A.R. got the breaks it needed — and some help from four Wildcats turnovers — to post a 34-14 win on the road.
"(We made) way too many mistakes," said Athens coach Jack Young. "We were outcoached and outplayed. They were well prepared. No excuses. We were beat up (Saturday). We were beat today by a better football team."
Athens' first miscue was a pick on its opening drive. The Wildcats' defense got the first of four three-and-outs against the Grenadiers to get the ball back for the offense.
With Zack Jayne, who had 148 yards and a score on 21 carries, tearing off huge chunks of yardage, Athens embarked on a nine-play march that culminated in a 9-yard TD run by quarterback Justin Reagan.
G.A.R. answered with a 16-play, 64-yard drive based on the running of Josh Goodwin, who ended his day with 135 yards and two TDs on 26 carries. Routinely picking up yards after contact, Goodwin had eight carries on the drive with his last being a 1-yard TD run.
Athens moved the ball well — the Wildcats had 333 yards — but one drive ended with a fumble and another after a hold in the backfield produced a first-and-22.
After that drive, the Grenadiers caught some lightning in the form of Goodwin. Four plays netted 16 yards, and then Goodwin picked his way for 62 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Athens 7-yard line. Three plays later and still six yards from paydirt, G.A.R. quarterback Tashawn Qualls handed off to fullback Mike Drozda only to be surprised to find the ball back in his hands after a fumble that bounced right to him. Qualls made the most of the lucky bounce, racing around the right side to the end zone.
Muhaideen Tajuddin connected on the second of his four successful PAT kicks to put the Grenadiers up 14-7.
On its first snap from scrimmage, Athens was picked by Tajuddin at its 28. He returned the ball to Athens' 5-yard line. Two penalties and two negative-yardage plays later, G.A.R. was facing a third-and-goal from the Athens 27. Somehow, wideout Nate Luckey found himself open in the end zone. Qualls also saw him there and the two connected on a 27-yard TD hookup with eight seconds left.
With the help of 35 yards in penalties on the kickoff and first Athens play, the Wildcats had a chance. Reagan hit Jarod Stanfield on the last play of the half but the play came up a yard short of the end zone.
G.A.R. seemed content to run as much clock as possible in the second half, leisurely running plays to stay inbounds.
Athens got some stops, but had one great drive stopped by the Grenadiers. On Athens' second possession of the half, the Wildcats rode Jayne from their 41-yard line to the end zone. Jayne carried the ball four times, covering 39 yards, including the last 27. Shane Colegrove hit his second PAT kick of the day to cut G.A.R.'s lead to 21-14 with 12 seconds left on the third quarter.
Athens' defense came up big on the Grenadiers' next possession, but couldn't capitalize.
G.A.R., though, did. Taking over at their 8-yard line after a 50-yard Mitch Kerrick punt, the Grenadiers regained their footing. Most plays produced between one and eight yards, but Malachi Williams grabbed a Qualls pass for a 29-yard gain early in the drive and Tajuddin picked up 22 yards on his only run of the day later in the march. Goodwin did the rest, running through three tackles on the way to an 18-yard TD that effectively ended the game with 5:18 to go.
Athens tried to answer and, with the Grenadiers playing a prevent defense, had some success. The Wildcats got to the Grenadiers' 33-yard line, but a pitch that was behind the running back proved disastrous when Qualls picked up the errant pigskin at Athens' 41-yard line and raced untouched into the end zone with 2:23 remaining.
That was basically all she wrote.
Reagan hit nine of 19 passes for 134 yards. Kerrick had three catches for 62 yards, Keathley had three for 36 and Stanfield two for 35 in the loss.
Athens will have a chance to rebound from this loss in just five days, when the Wildcats (3-3) travel to the Scranton area for a 6 p.m. Thursday date with Holy Redeemer.